Thursday, February 24, 2005

Last last call at DeGroen's

Baltimore Brewing Company (or Degroen's, its trade name) has been a brewpub fixture of the Baltimore beer scene since its inception in 1989. DeGroen's was the area's second brewpub, preceded by only a few months by the area's first - Sisson's.

Sad for its fans and for good beer enthusiasts, BBC is closing.

A friend reported that as of Wednesday, 23 March 2005, a mere 11 kegs of beer remained. He said, "The chalkboard behind the bar explicitly says '"DO NOT PLAN A RETURN VISIT!!'"

Baltimore Brewing Company was founded by a Continental - Theo De Groen - a courageous adventurer brewing lagers in a microbrew world awash with ales.

His brewpub was quite Teutonic in other ways: sausage and starch menu, a gorgeous copper brewhouse, a cavernous, high-ceilinged taproom.

DeGroen offered his beers in take-home refillable growlers. One of his innovations was "DeGroen's filling stations": one could return an empty growler to a participating wine and beer shop and receive a new, freshly filled growler. DeGroen was the initial importer of these distinctive bottles: metal cradles, smoked brown glass, and ceramic resealable swing tops, similar to those found on Grolsch bottles. (Not coincidentally, the DeGroen family has ownership stake in Grolsch.)

Other brewpubs throughout the US soon began to buy these same growlers. To help his brewpub grow and survive, DeGroen eventually installed a bottling line.

I prefer recalling the good memories rather than observing the death gurgle.

  • My many visits to the BBC in the early 1990s, when I was amazed by the sharp complexity of the DeGroens Pils.
  • Working on my purchase of Sisson's in the spring and fall of 2000, my weekly visits to BBC for the Pils and malty Bock.
  • A Weizen brewed with Weinheinstephan yeast, a Dunkles, an Altfest, and a Marzen rounding out the traditional roster of beers.
  • As recently as late spring 2004, I enjoyed a wonderful DeGroens rauch bock on tap.
  • The brewery was rewarded with medals from GABF.

    BBC was a training ground for brewers. Ron Barchet and Bill Covaleski, owners and brewers at Victory Brewing, worked for DeGroen.
  • Washington, D.C.-area beer maven Bob Tupper speaks of DeGroen's Pils as the inspiration for his gold-medal winning Tupper's Hop Pocket Pils.
  • My two DeGroens growlers, long emptied, remain as special mementos.
The morbid roster grows: Oxford Brewing Company, Potomac Brewing Company, Blue and Gold Brewpub, Sisson's Restaurant and Brewery, Globe Brewing Company, Brimstone Brewing Company, Wild Goose Brewing Company, and yes, even National Brewing Company.

Continued success and good fortune to the survivors!

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